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C.3. Installing Ubuntu from a Unix/Linux System

This section explains how to install Ubuntu from an existing Unix or Linux system, without using the ncurses-based, menu-driven installer as explained in the rest of the manual. This "cross-install" HOWTO has been requested by users switching to Ubuntu from Debian GNU/Linux, Redhat, Mandrake, and SUSE. In this section some familiarity with entering *nix commands and navigating the file system is assumed. In this section, $ symbolizes a command to be entered in the user's current system, while # refers to a command entered in the Ubuntu chroot.

Once you've got the new Ubuntu system configured to your preference, you can migrate your existing user data (if any) to it, and keep on rolling. This is therefore a "zero downtime" Ubuntu install. It's also a clever way for dealing with hardware that otherwise doesn't play friendly with various boot or installation media.

C.3.1. Getting Started

With your current *nix partitioning tools, repartition the hard drive as needed, creating at least one filesystem plus swap. You need at least 350MB of space available for a minimal custom install, or at least 1.8GB if you plan to install the Ubuntu desktop.

To create file systems on your partitions. For example, to create an ext3 file system on partition /dev/hda6 (that's our example root partition):


 $ mke2fs -j /dev/hda6

To create an ext2 file system instead, omit -j.

Initialize and activate swap (substitute the partition number for your intended Ubuntu swap partition):


 $ mkswap /dev/hda5
 $ sync; sync; sync
 $ swapon /dev/hda5

Mount one partition as /mnt/ubuntu (the installation point, to be the root (/) filesystem on your new system). The mount point name is strictly arbitrary, it is referenced later below.


 $ mkdir /mnt/ubuntu
 $ mount /dev/hda6 /mnt/ubuntu

C.3.2. Install debootstrap

The tool that the Ubuntu installer uses, which is recognized as the official way to install an Ubuntu base system, is debootstrap. It uses wget, but otherwise depends only on /bin/sh. Install wget if it isn't already on your current system, then download and install debootstrap.

If you have an rpm-based system, you can use alien to convert the .deb into .rpm.

Or, you can use the following procedure to install it manually. Make a work folder for extracting the .deb into:


 $ mkdir work
 $ cd work

The debootstrap binary is located in the Ubuntu archive (be sure to select the proper file for your architecture). Download the debootstrap .deb from the pool, copy the package to the work folder, and extract the binary files from it. You will need to have root privileges to install the binaries.


 $ ar -xf debootstrap_0.X.X_arch.deb
 $ cd /
 $ zcat < /full-path-to-work/work/data.tar.gz | tar xv

C.3.3. Run debootstrap

debootstrap can download the needed files directly from the archive when you run it. You can substitute any Ubuntu archive mirror for archive.ubuntulinux.org/ubuntu in the command example below, preferably a mirror close to you network-wise. Mirrors are listed at http://wiki.ubuntulinux.org/Archive.

If you have an Ubuntu warty CD mounted at /cdrom, you could substitute a file URL instead of the http URL: file:/cdrom/ubuntu/

Substitute one of the following for ARCH in the debootstrap command: amd64, i386, or powerpc.


 $ /usr/sbin/debootstrap --arch ARCH warty \
     /mnt/ubuntu http://archive.ubuntulinux.org/ubuntu

C.3.4. Configure The Base System

Now you've got a real Ubuntu system, though rather lean, on disk. Chroot into it:


 $ chroot /mnt/ubuntu /bin/bash

C.3.4.1. Mount Partitions

You need to create /etc/fstab.


 # editor /etc/fstab

Here is a sample you can modify to suit:


# /etc/fstab: static file system information.
#
# file system    mount point   type    options                  dump pass
/dev/XXX         /             ext2    defaults                 0    0
/dev/XXX         /boot         ext2    ro,nosuid,nodev          0    2

/dev/XXX         none          swap    sw                       0    0
proc             /proc         proc    defaults                 0    0
sys              /sys          sysfs   defaults                 0    0

/dev/fd0         /mnt/floppy   auto    noauto,rw,sync,user,exec 0    0
/dev/cdrom       /mnt/cdrom    iso9660 noauto,ro,user,exec      0    0

/dev/XXX         /tmp          ext2    rw,nosuid,nodev          0    2
/dev/XXX         /var          ext2    rw,nosuid,nodev          0    2
/dev/XXX         /usr          ext2    rw,nodev                 0    2
/dev/XXX         /home         ext2    rw,nosuid,nodev          0    2

Use mount -a to mount all the file systems you have specified in your /etc/fstab, or to mount file systems individually use:


 # mount /path  # e.g.:  mount /usr

You can mount the proc and sysfs file systems multiple times and to arbitrary locations, though /proc and /sys respectively are customary. If you didn't use mount -a, be sure to mount proc and sysfs before continuing:


 # mount -t proc proc /proc
 # mount -t sysfs sysfs /sys

C.3.4.2. Configure Keyboard

To configure your keyboard:


 # dpkg-reconfigure console-data

C.3.4.3. Configure Networking

To configure networking, edit /etc/network/interfaces, /etc/resolv.conf, and /etc/hostname.


 # editor /etc/network/interfaces 

Here are some simple examples from /usr/share/doc/ifupdown/examples:

######################################################################
# /etc/network/interfaces -- configuration file for ifup(8), ifdown(8)
# See the interfaces(5) manpage for information on what options are 
# available.
######################################################################

# We always want the loopback interface.
#
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

# To use dhcp:
#
# auto eth0
# iface eth0 inet dhcp

# An example static IP setup: (broadcast and gateway are optional)
#
# auto eth0
# iface eth0 inet static
#     address 192.168.0.42
#     network 192.168.0.0
#     netmask 255.255.255.0
#     broadcast 192.168.0.255
#     gateway 192.168.0.1

Enter your nameserver(s) and search directives in /etc/resolv.conf:


 # editor /etc/resolv.conf

A simple /etc/resolv.conf:


# search hqdom.local\000
# nameserver 10.1.1.36
# nameserver 192.168.9.100

Enter your system's host name (2 to 63 characters):


 # echo UbuntuHostName > /etc/hostname

If you have multiple network cards, you should arrange the names of driver modules in the /etc/modules file into the desired order. Then during boot, each card will be associated with the interface name (eth0, eth1, etc.) that you expect.

C.3.4.4. Configure Timezone, Users, and APT

Set your timezone, add a normal user, and choose your apt sources by running


 # /usr/sbin/base-config new

C.3.4.5. Configure Locales

To configure your locale settings to use a language other than English, install the locales support package and configure it:


 # apt-get install locales
 # dpkg-reconfigure locales

NOTE: Apt must be configured before, ie. during the base-config phase. Before using locales with character sets other than ASCII or latin1, please consult the appropriate localisation HOWTO.

C.3.5. Install a Kernel

If you intend to boot this system, you probably want a Linux kernel and a boot loader. Identify available pre-packaged kernels with


 # apt-cache search linux-image

Then install your choice using its package name.


 # apt-get install linux-image-2.X.X-arch-etc

C.3.6. Set up the Boot Loader

To make your Ubuntu system bootable, set up your boot loader to load the installed kernel with your new root partition. Note that debootstrap does not install a boot loader, though you can use apt-get inside your Ubuntu chroot to do so.

Check man yaboot.conf for instructions on setting up the bootloader. If you are keeping the system you used to install Ubuntu, just add an entry for the Ubuntu install to your existing yaboot.conf. You could also copy it to the new system and edit it there. After you are done editing, call ybin (remember it will use yaboot.conf relative to the system you call it from).

Here is a basic /etc/yaboot.conf as an example:


boot=/dev/hda2
device=hd:
partition=6
root=/dev/hda6
magicboot=/usr/lib/yaboot/ofboot
timeout=50
image=/vmlinux
label=Ubuntu

On some machines, you may need to use ide0: instead of hd:.

C.3.7. Install the Ubuntu Desktop

At this point, you probably want to reboot into your new Ubuntu system to make sure it all works. Once you've done that, log in as the user you created in Section C.3.4.4, “Configure Timezone, Users, and APT”, and run:


 $ sudo aptitude -y install '~tubuntu-desktop'

You will need to enter your password to authorise sudo to run as root.

aptitude will now get on with installing the packages that make up the Ubuntu desktop, which will take a while. When it's finished, you should be presented with a graphical login prompt. The installation is now complete, so go ahead and log in.